14 Things I Wish I Knew About Breastfeeding
When it comes to breastfeeding, everyone has their own story, opinions, tips and tricks of the trade. It is regarded as the most natural and nutritious food you can offer your baby. Rich in fat and calories, your breastmilk will change and adapt to your babys’ age, needs and condition.
Mother’s are born to feed their offspring, so it is natural to think that breastfeeding should be innate for both mother and baby, right? In my own personal experience. It wasn’t. I had no idea what I was doing with my first born and I felt defeated every time I had to nurse. It did not come naturally like I had envisioned. He was tongue tied, I believe I had an under supply and supplemented with formula in the first few weeks. I had mastitis and in the end resorted to expressing the breastmilk in order to feed my baby. And then, boom! I had an oversupply. It was quite a vicious cycle of on and off mastitis and blocked milk ducts (for 9 months!). However, I persevered and fed my baby for almost 2 years until my nipples could no longer take anymore cracking and bleeding.
Yet, I will do it over and over again as I believed and knew the importance of breastfeeding and the benefits it had to both mother and baby.
Breastmilk is a superfood. Fact.
For baby, breastmilk can:
- Increase babys immunity
- Promote a healthy digestion
- Assist in positive cognitive development
For mum, nursing can:
- Assist in better and quicker recovery after labour
- Improve emotional health
- Reduce the risk of ovarian and breast cancer
Although I don’t consider or claim to be an expert at breastfeeding. I am currently in the midst of my second exclusive breastfeeding journey. Having experienced both exclusive expressing and breastfeeding, I have spent endless hours on Google trying to find answers to never ending questions. Especially at 3am in the morning when I felt weak and wanted to give up. So, today, I would like to share a few things that I wish I had known before embarking on this long, tiring but magical journey.
1. Breastfeeding is natural, but it may not come naturally
With my firstborn, I was so tired and high (from the gas and air), that I did not want to hold or bond with my baby in the first hour after he was born. I just wanted to sleep after being in agony all through the previous day and night. Big mistake! As this meant I probably didn’t have enough initial skin to skin to stimulate milk production. When I went home, I was equally stressed about not producing enough milk and baby not latching on. I was quite annoyed at the fuss around me and the constant relative visiting traffic that I became quite resistant to the idea of just “people”. I wanted to be alone. And hence most likely paved my own difficult start to my breastfeeding journey. I was so sore and tired from labour that I just wanted to rest, but this was impossible now that I had this squidgy little person in my arms.
Second time round, I learnt from my mistake and promptly put my wrinkly little newborn onto my chest to feed minutes after popping him out. Although it was painful and uncomfortable for the first couple of weeks due to incorrect latch. Reaching out for guidance and support from the hospital, midwife, lactation consultants and friends helped immensely. So, don’t be afraid to admit you need help and have no idea what you are doing. It doesn’t always come naturally to everyone and that’s why there are so many support groups for breastfeeding mums.
2. Be patient
Breastmilk can take up to 5-7 days for your milk to come in. Just because you don’t seem to be producing much after labour is absolutely normal. Be patient and don’t give up. I probably wasn’t patient enough with my firstborn and panicked. And if like me, you decided to express. Again, don’t stress at the amount that has (or hasn’t) come out. This is not an indication of what you are producing or what baby is receiving at the breast.
3. Breastfeeding isn’t always quicker
As mentioned above, breastfeeding is not always the easy option and it isn’t always quicker either. When I expressed breastfed, I was hooked up to a pump for an hour every 2-4 hours. Had to clean and sterilise the bottles and pumps. And also feed my baby from a bottle or warm up breastmilk that was previously expressed. With breastfeeding, I had a baby on my chest every 1.5 hour for 30mins to an hour each time. Which you can imagine left me with very little time in between for anything else. Now that he is older, I have a longer stretch, but you can’t see or measure the amount of milk that has been ingested, and many of those minutes, I was probably just a pacifier.
So yeah, it was long. It seemed like I either had a pump or a baby on my chest 24/7. I didn’t get much more sleep whether I was expressing or not. But for me, it was worth it and if you decide to express, I highly recommend a double breast pump to be as time efficient as possible.
4. Everyone has an opinion
Whether that person has breastfed before, male or female, know you or is a complete stranger. They will have something to say. It doesn’t matter if you decide to breastfeed exclusively, express, formula feed or alternate/supplement with formula/expressed breastmilk. You’ll soon find out everyone has an opinion, and they may not always come across as supportive. “Baby is hungry again, you don’t have enough milk.” “If it’s so difficult/tiring, just give up.” Best advice is to just ignore it. You know your body and your baby best. No one has the right to judge you and vice versa.
5. Do not underestimate engorgement
After the birth of both my boys, my breasts doubled in size and were super sensitive. Touching was off the table because they were so painful. My day to day life, exercise and even sleep was deeply affected. I couldn’t even cuddle my baby because the pressure was too much. What helped was massaging and hot compress before nursing and cold compress afterwards. And trust me, this feeling doesn’t last forever. Sometime around the 2 to 3 month mark (or earlier), you will not notice this anymore. Sure you will feel engorged when your little one hasn’t fed for a while or has been too distracted if you’ve been out and about. What helped me in situations like this was the silicone breast pump, simply suction to breast and it will collect any let down and breastmilk leaks, relieving me from engorgement pressure and pain.
However if you experience persistent pain, red blotches or develop a fever, then consult your doctor as soon as you can. You are signs of mastitis, a painful and potentially dangerous infection when your milk ducts get blocked and aren’t drained properly. You should continue to nurse and massage the sore and infected breast, as this can help with blockages.
6. Breastfeeding can be lonely
This is something only you can do, no one can help you (unless you are express breastfeeding). There were times when I would look over at my peacefully sleeping and sometimes snoring husband and want to strangle him. Yes, I was still hormonal. But why is he allowed to sleep when I have to be up for the 5th time? Isn’t it unfair that I had to go through all the changes in my body during pregnancy, go through labour and now also breastfeed alone? Well not really, because breastfeeding is a choice. A decision I made to give what is nutritionally best for my baby. I get hubby to burp him afterwards so he doesn‘t feel left out.
And yes, breastfeeding in public is still taboo in many places, but puh-lease! I will never try to hide away in another room or the toilet when I’m feeding my baby. My four year old #JasperBean is so use to this sight that it is a norm for him. Breastfeeding is such a natural thing to do, so never be ashamed to feed your baby in public when they are hungry. By all means cover up if you feel the need, but don’t feel like you don’t have the right. Plus I wouldn‘t want to miss out on conversations with friends and family. 😛
7. The Letdown Feeling
This is when your breast is telling you your baby needs to feed. Or when you hear a baby cry in the early days. Or when you’re nursing on one side and the other side is responding as well. The feeling can range from a tingling sensation to a much stronger, slightly painful feeling in the nipple area. All of this is perfectly normal, just make sure you have breast pads (or silicon pump) to catch any leaks.
8. You may experience cramps
These will feel like menstrual cramps. The reason for this is because during breastfeeding, your body releases a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone helps shrink your uterus and flatten your abdomen after childbirth. Hence the uterine cramps. If it‘s too unbearable, it is safe for you to take some paracetamol to alleviate the pain.
9. Leaky taps
That’s right, as mentioned above, you will experience leakage. I still don’t understand how some nursing mums can go without a bra. I know that they can be restrictive if you’re engorged, but how do they deal with the leaks?? Please let me know if you’re one of those mums, I really want to know. As for myself, I get some great fitting nursing bras/vest and line them with breast pads to save myself from any embarrassing trickles.
10. Breastfeeding lifesavers
Breast shields and nipple cream (lanolin). Use nipple cream at least for the first couple of weeks. They were a lifesaver for cracked and sore nipples! And if your nipples have gone too far in the cracked avenue, then breast shields will allow you to feed while giving them time to heal and rest as well.
11. Healing power
Breastmilk not only can give your baby nutrition, it can also heal small wounds and prevent infections. Great if your nipples are feeling a bit sore or cracked, just dab a bit on the area and allow it to air dry. Even rashes, scratches or eye infections on your baby can be treated with your breastmilk. Go on, give it a try!
12. Co-Sleeping is not a crime
If you choose to co-sleep, then go for it. Just be sure you and doing it safely, know the risks and take precautions. I find nursing in the evening so much easier with co-sleeping.
13. Have a plan but also be flexible
Be organised and have everything you need close by, because once you settle down to nurse or pump, chances are you’re not going to be moving any time soon. Have snacks, drinks, your phone, tablet or a book nearby. Trust me, you will be ravenous! If you’re expressing, develop a labelling and storing system. Be prepared for the next couple of feeds so you don’t waste any fresh or frozen milk. If you’re breastfeeding, prepare and think ahead. Have you decided when you want to stop breastfeeding? When you’re weaning? Or returning to work? Know that this will be a gradual process and you cant just go cold turkey. You may have to express a little to slowly decrease your milk production if you/baby no longer want to nurse.
14. Lastly, it’s okay to say breastfeeding is not for me
Breastfeeding is a real bonding experience. And hey, even if you’re bottle feeding, you’ll still have a magical bond with your baby!
In the end, it was my choice whether I breastfed or not. No one else’s. And it’s yours too. If you don’t want to or can’t breastfeed, don’t beat yourself. As a mummy, you have enough to stress about, so do what you consider is best for the mental and physical health of yourself and your baby. The bond between a mother and their child can never be replicated anywhere, so just enjoy your new squidgy creation and count all your blessings.
When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. John 16:21
You’ve done a great job mama, so why not treat yourself and baby to a monthly treat from Little Fawn Box.
I would love to hear your experiences too, so please leave a comment below if you have any tips and tricks or just want to share.
Thanks for reading and until next time…
Love, MsMamaBean x
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